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Spokane thrives on its waterfront


Pavilion in Spokane’s Riverfront Park, photos courtesy Spokane CVB


It’s no surprise that Spokane, Washington, takes its name from the Spokane River. After all, the river runs right through the heart of downtown, bringing with it a pulsing energy and an active outdoor scene that fits in perfectly with the aesthetic of the great Northwest.

The river and the downtown district that surrounds it make a great starting point for groups to have a variety of experiences in Spokane. Several parks combine the area’s natural beauty with man-made amusements and diversions in the heart of the city. There’s plenty of outdoor adventure, too, starting with urban white-water rafting and fanning out to numerous opportunities to explore the natural environment in the region.

Spokane’s human history also began downtown. Visitors that love looking into the past will find a large collection of historical buildings, museums and other attractions throughout the city that bring the present in contact with the past.

However if you plan to experience Spokane, though, you must start with the river.

Park It Here
Take a walk around downtown Spokane, and the first thing you’re likely to notice is Riverfront Park, a 100-acre park that sits in the middle of the main urban corridor.

“It’s called Riverfront Park because the Spokane River goes right through it,” said Tim Robinson, director of communications and public relations for Visit Spokane. “It’s a big, beautiful, robust river. And Spokane Falls in the park is the second-longest vertical waterfall in a city in the United States, after Niagara Falls.”

The river and the falls are the central focus of Riverfront Park, which was built in 1974. In addition to walking around the park to see the sites, visitors can enjoy a number of attractions, such as amusement rides and an Imax theater.

“My favorite thing at the park is the Skyride,” Robinson said. “It’s a gondola that takes you on a 10-minute ride over the river and the waterfall.”

With the river and the attractions, Riverfront Park makes a great place to turn groups loose for some free time. Travelers can also eat in one of the numerous restaurants alongside the park and shop in the adjacent downtown retail district.

The park becomes the center of activity in Spokane during numerous special celebrations.
“In the summertime, there’s something going on in the park every weekend,” said Cindy Turnbow, sales manager at Visit Spokane. “There are arts and crafts vendors and food vendors throughout the park.”

Park-lovers should also visit Manito Park, a city park designed by the son of Central Park planner Frederick Law Olmstead.

“Manito Park is huge, and it has all kinds of gardens,” Robinson said. “The most beautiful is a large English sunken garden. There’s also a rose garden and a Japanese garden that is so tranquil it’s crazy.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.